by David McElroy
I was about to leave Chick-fil-A Wednesday evening when I noticed a young woman come in who looked exhausted — as though she had been battling monsters all day.
She was tall and slim, with straight black hair and dark brown skin. She wore black pants and a tailored solid blue shirt that fit her frame tastefully.
Even though she seemed tired, she looked graceful and elegant. She looked lovely. We met one another near the door and spoke politely as we passed.
Then as she stood at the counter waiting for someone to take her order, I quickly went over and spoke.
“You look fantastic, by the way,” I said. “That combination looks great on you.”
She seemed mildly surprised and then she smiled weakly.
I turned to leave and I thought we were finished. I didn’t have any ulterior motive in complimenting her. I just thought she looked great and that she deserved to be told.
I walked outside.
I had just gotten to my car when I realized she had followed me out and was hurrying to catch up with me.
“I just wanted you to you how much I appreciated you saying that,” she said. “I’ve had a really rough day and you made me feel good about myself. I needed that. Thank you for taking the time to say it.”
We shook hands and said our goodbyes.
She went back inside to order and I drove away smiling to have had a positive effect on the life of a random human being.
I found myself remembering an alleged Mark Twain quote on the subject. Twain allegedly wrote, “I can last two months on a good compliment.”
A sincerely compliment can lift my spirits and change my outlook on the world, at least briefly. A compliment can make my heart feel full and make my spirit soar. I hate caring what others think, but their compliments can mean a lot to me when I believe they’re sincere.
Almost all of us have a strong need to be appreciated — and we’re usually too busy thinking about ourselves to tell others the genuinely good things we think about them.
Even if we think good things, we’re typically afraid to be vulnerable enough to walk up to a stranger and deliver a sincere compliment, because we know it can easily be misinterpreted. But sometimes, it works, and those times make the risk worthwhile.
That little encounter left me feeling good, because I felt that I’d had a sincere, genuine exchange with a stranger. She needed something tiny from me, even though it cost me nothing to give it.
I live on a planet where I feel more like an alien than like one of the natives. It’s in those rare moments of connection with a human being when I feel as though I might belong here after all — and that feels good.